Sunday, December 31, 2017

Christmas Sheep

My workplace has a part time person responsible for spiritual care. Chaplains can be a part of the Recreation team or perhaps of a Spiritual Care Department, They leads ecumenical services, arrange for churches of different faiths to regularly send priests or ministers to lead services. They will counsel and visit with our residents and their families and be part of the team that provides palliative care and will do memorial services within our facility. The role of a Spiritual Care person in a Personal Care Home is very important and not enough facilities have someone trained for this task. It takes advanced learning and it also requires someone who is able to be respectful, support our residents in their emotional needs and be knowledgeable of a wide range of spiritual belief systems.

Our Chaplain did a more unique Christmas service this year. She did a service where she told the Christmas Story and mixed in related hymns as the story unfolded. She made a lot of props so that the residents could be directly included in the story. There was a group of the residents that wore garland halos and acted as our angels, there were little gold wrapped blocks for our group of Wise Men to hold and there were adorable little "knit with love" sheep for our Shepherd residents to cuddle. It was indeed a special and memorable way to tell the story of Christ's birth.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Christmas Eve Dinner

My Mother's family came from Poland and I grew up with a lot of Polish holiday and food customs.
I only recall having a full out Polish Christmas Eve dinner a couple of times growing up but it seemed magical to me and even as a young girl I appreciated that sense of a deep connection with ancient times and a rich sense of the Holy Night we were celebrating.

When our children were little Bob and I decided to have as much of a Polish traditional Christmas Eve dinner as we could arrange and we celebrated a morning breakfast with my father in Swedish fashion to honor his heritage. Christmas dinner was celebrated at Bob's parents on alternate years.

Christmas Eve dinner 2017
Polish Christmas Eve dinner is an elaborate affair called Wigilia. We really could not do a true, traditional celebration so we used a lot of creativity to make it our own. The dinner itself consists of 12 separate dishes, one for each month of the year but my Grandmother taught me that is was one dish for each of the Apostles. The dishes are supposed to be meat free but fish is allowed. The fish part is a problem for our family with seafood and fish allergies so we just ignore the main fish course and the herring and make it be any 12 meat free courses we can work out.

The evening meal starts with the children watching for the appearance of the first star of the sky. The star of Bethlehem guiding the wise men to Jesus. We then share the greeting Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia! We listen carefully because the ancient story is that the animals are able to talk on this night of the year as a reward for being there to welcome the baby Jesus at his birth. There should be straw or wheat at the table to make us remember the manger that Jesus was laid in. It was a very ancient belief that the grains needed to me brought in for the celebration of the winter solstice and that those grains would be the promise that the grain would grow again in the spring and the days would once again grow longer. Another important belief was that there should be an empty chair at the table. There is a saying that a guest in the home is God in the home. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40, 45) We leave a welcoming spot for a stranger or someone in need.  We also leave that spot to welcome the spirit of our deceased loved ones to be with us and in our minds and our hearts.
wheat berry, poppy seed and honey first course.
The meal itself has many meaningful elements to it.  The first dish is a kind of grain pudding called Kutia which has wheat grains to sustain us, honey to bring us sweetness of life and the poppy seed to bring us spice into our life. Next we serve Borscht which is a beet soup made with a vegetable broth and vegetables.  We have pierogis which we make with several fillings, cheese, sauerkraut and a fruit kind. We have a sauce made of mushrooms and onions we use on the perogies but really it could be a little thicker and served as a second soup or a little thicker as a mushroom stew.We have cheeses, pickles, breads, pickled beets, fried sauerkraut and sometimes a poppy seed cake.

There are songs to sing and gifts to open.   I try to head to Christmas Eve Mass which is called the Shepard's Mass. Midnight Mass is another option but sometimes it is better to get a good sleep and go to church in the morning. When I was a child we would have the big meatless dinner with my Polish uncle and aunt and other relatives and then I could open a package which was always pajamas. We went to Midnight Mass and then Jesus was born and it was Christmas Day! People would come back to our house even though it was one in the morning and my Mother would start all over again with putting out a meal. There was cold meat, breads, cabbage rolls and much more. The adults toasted the day and wished blessings and joy for the New Year. ... and even though I could now open the rest of my presents...  I usually fell asleep.

Wesołych Świąt i szczęśliwego Nowego Roku!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Lot of room for presents!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Jasper Greetings

Jasper loves Christmas trees.  When he saw the car drive up and the tree get carried in he was so excited! The first year we had Jasper we thought he was going to be ummm hard on the tree. It turns out it is more like napping in the forest. He slept under it and he tried to drink water from the tree stand and  ran in circles under it.  When we started to decorate the tree and hang the ornaments he got in on the process much to our shock. He went to his toy basket and got one of his squeaky toys and balanced them on the branches then went and did it again.  Jasper is an outdoor winter type dog and he appreciates our seasonal attempts to bring the outdoors in. 

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Driving in a Winter Wonderland

We have a really nice light near our city each December. It is called the Canad Inn  Winter Wonderland.

I have gone many times with family and friends and as well we usually take a small bus from the Personal Care Home I work at. It is a winter traditions for many Winnipeggers. The exhibitions consist of over a million lights and is arranged into 26 different theme areas along a winding 2.5 km road with plenty of places to stop and get out of your vehicle for a photo opportunity. The exhibit has several sponsors but most important is that the money raised by this huge undertaking supports  two important programs in Manitoba – Last year it was KidSport Manitoba and the Riverview Health Centre.

You can see the lights glowing from a distance as you approach the park.  It is only a couple miles outside of the city and located where we have an exhibition area, sports complex and the race track. As you reach the entrance to the park you pass through the gate where you can purchase your ticket, price based on type of vehicle or give your ticket that you purchase at a slight discount ahead of time.  Kids receive a coloring sheet that they can enter for a big prize packet to be drawn in January.. 
I small bit further you find a concession area where you can buy some food - a big favorite is bucket of hot cinnamon sugar mini donuts. You can tune your radio to their channel and listen to Christmas music or  put on your own favorite Christmas tunes. There are fantastic skating areas and a warm up shed, or perhaps you would like to go on a horse drawn carriage ride!

We like it as an outing for our seniors because they get on the bus right by the door of our building and then they can see all the lights of the city during our drive out and then the fantastic displays of the park and they don't have to worry about getting off the bus at any time until we are home again. It is easy on aching bodies and more relaxing for people with dementia who might become anxious if they were walking around unfamiliar territory.

When we go with our Grandkids we are sure to get enough of the coloring sheets and after our trip we go home to turn on the lights of our Christmas tree, put on a Christmas movie, make some hot cocoa and color our contest entries. It feels like Christmas is almost here!


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Bob Carved a Santa

Bob went to a workshop session at Lee Valley Tools to learn how to carve a Woodland Santa.
He went two days in a row and finished one little Santa and got a bigger one roughed out in that time. It is made out of something called Cottonwood that is readily available. I think this little guy is adorable.

I look forward to seeing what other things Bob might carve now that he has tried it out. He has ordered a few carving books over the internet and is pouring over them getting new ideas.
 Bob still needs to put a little picture hanger on the back of the woodland santa so we can hang him somewhere special this Christmas.

I do think he looks pretty happy as a tree ornament Santa!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Electric Museum at Christmas Time

Our Girl Guide Unit- Pathfinders went to an interesting museum for our Holiday Party Windup. The Girls ran around the museum doing a trivia challenge in order to win a little prize and they learned a few things about electricity in the process. Afterward we went out for treats at a nearby restaurant and the girls filled up on steaming hot cocoa and yummy desserts.

The Electric Museum is part of an old electrical substation that is sill functioning and is a nice little museum for people to visit. Touring the museum is free and run by volunteers. This time of year something kind of magical happens. They have an annual exhibit called "All that Glows: Then and Now". It show a glimpse into the evolution of holiday lighting through the years.

I took some pictures that I am sure you will find interesting, What kind of tree and lighting do you remember from you childhood? What kind of lighting would you enjoy having in your home now?
I love that whole kitchen scene. It is some odd spot between what I loved when I was little and we have a lot of similar things to what you see in the picture at our cottage. The other fun part is the outside lighting is fairly extensive with a giant tree and some of it is coordinated with music on a radio station you can tune your car radio or devices on to.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Nativity Sets and Angels

I hope you enjoy these pictures of the Nativity Set collection and other items that we have in our living room display case. They are quite a variety of styles and ages, each with their own treasured stories. I have taken them, plus others in my collection to the Personal Care home where I work. I used them for a discussion group and they sure do bring back memories of their own to our residents too.

My Grandma Lisowski's miniature plastic Nativity scene. Only 4 and a half inches by 3 inches
My Grandma Lisowski's Statues of the Holy Family

Sweet little Angels

Some of our Willow Tree Angels

This lovely little carved egg was a gift from my daughter. It has such  fantastic details of the Nativity within.

Bob's Grandmother Cooper and Aunt Irene were in Egypt when Bob was only 7.  His grandmother bought him the fur toy camel. Sadly Bob's Grandmother died in a car accident in Egypt on this trip and we are glad to have this mementoes of her.

The metal camel was a prized possession of Aunty Irene, that she gifted to him when she moved into a retirement home.

Our 3 pewter Wise Men were purchased on a Christmas to the Max convention trip to California a few years ago.

Jim Shore collectable called "Landscape Sleeps".

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Cooking Latkes for Chanukah

This year the Hebrew holiday of Chanukah begin yesterday evening, December 12th and ends on December 20th.

We will also enjoy Latkes for dinner. They are potato pancakes and are traditionally made during the 8 days of the Hanukah season by most of my Jewish friends. These things are delicious! My Polish Grandma and my mom made potato pancakes fairly often. Mom usually prepared these on those colder winter days when you wanted sometime warm and filling but don't have time to cook for hours.

Chanukah is the Jewish eight-day, wintertime “festival of lights,” and the word itself means dedication. Menorahs, candle holders, are lit each evening, adding an additional candle each the eight nights and special prayers, songs and fried foods are shared together. A favorite game called Dreidel is played and sometimes gifts are exchanged.

The holiday commemorates an event in the second century BCE when a small group of Jews, led by Judah the Maccabee defended the old temple in Jerusalem during an invasion of the Holy Land. When the Maccabees and reclaimed the temple went to light the holy light in the temple they found only enough oil to last one day. Miraculously that tiny amount of oil lasted for 8 full days until new oil could be prepared.

The foods cooked are often deep fried in oil to commemorate the miracle of the oil lasting in the temple. Jelly donuts and the fried potato pancakes are favorites.

There is a lot of info about making Latkes on the internet and everyone seems to think the way their own Grandma made it is the right way and isn't that perfect? That is how traditions are handed down through the generations.


5 pounds of potatoes
2 eggs
1 onion
Approximately 3 tablespoons flour  or fine breadcrumbs or matzo meal
generous amount of oil - 1/2 to an inch deep in the pan

To be served with:
apple sauce
sour cream
fancy parties can involve toppings that range from capers to caviar with a sprinkle of green onion.

Supplies you will need include:

potato peeler
stirring spoons
frying pan
Paper towels
tea towels.

  • Peel and grate the potatoes. You can put it in water to keep it from browning but the starch from the potatoes helps with binding the pancakes together so I tend to just work fast.
  • Put the grated potato into a sieve or a tea towel and try and force some of the potatoes  liquid out of  it but not to the point of it being really dry.
  • Grate an onion and add to your potato.
  • Next beat the eggs lightly and add to your mixture
  • Add flour or matzo meal. Start lightly and add a bit more if needed. Too much flour can make it kind of gluey.
  • Season lightly with salt and pepper . Remember you can always add more seasoning to taste later.
  • Heat a vegetable oil in a pan, I like using an electric frying pan.
  • Add a large spoon of your mixture to the oil. You should see small bubbles forming around your pancakes. It should not too thick so it cooks through. Flip and brown the other side.
  • Remove the latkes from the oil and place on a paper towel lined plate to drain. 
  • Keep warm and serve with choice of toppings. I think sour cream on top is perfect and my daughter requires applesauce.

The following videos can give you more information and let you see what the latkes should look like but really, this is simple homemade traditional food and we should not overthink it. We should enjoy it! The first is nice and quick intro. The second is Martha, always great products, always interesting but I would never work that hard to make a pancake.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Santa Bob

Santa volunteered at the Sam (Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba) Christmas Dinner yesterday, carefully listening to so many wishes and reassuring people that they are indeed on the Nice list, at least for the moment. 😊. Santa passed out oranges and candy canes and posed for about a 100 pictures.

Ho Ho Ho
Santa Bob will be at several events around Winnipeg this season and this is going to be one busy week! Tomorrow he will be doing pictures at one Personal Care Home and on Thursday will be at another for the morning as a special guest for a holiday party.  He is brightening the lives of many seniors this week.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The Nativity Scene

We have a display cabinet in our living room that we like to change seasonally. During December we set up our collection of Nativity sets in it plus some angels, snow men and other wintery items. I do like that the cabinet is lit from the top and it has glass shelves. This gives a nice shade and ambiance, but  perhaps not the sharpest for pictures.

My mother-in-law made beautiful ceramics as a hobby in her later years and produced many lovely, beautifully painted pieces but my favorite by far is this little nativity set that she displayed in the dining area of her kitchen. My kids remember it from grandmas and now my grandchildren get to see it too.

Grandma Cooper's Nativity Set

We Three Kings

Shepard's await in Fields by Night

Oh Come, O Come Emmanuel! 

The top two shelves of the cabinet.

I hope to share pictures of some of the other Nativity sets in the near future.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Simple Fudge

Chocolate Fudge and Mini Oreo Fudge
I like to do a variety of activities with the grandkids. I also like to make them seasonal and interactive and this past week the plan was fudge.

I have taken on the job of supporting my oldest grandchild in learning school skills so I do a lot of things like double the amounts in a recipe, or half them, and then we can basically show an applied use for our math skills. We are covering organization skills and what order steps should be taken and I often get him to type out the recipe, preferably in his own words, but I take what I can get. Next I try to get him to take pictures or I take pics of him and we insert it into the document.
We eat or send home treats or meals and we try and do a critical discussion about what was good about making it, best about eating it and if we would ever make that again.

Sometimes we try out things that I want to do at Work or at the Stroke Recovery Association because I am much more comfortable having previously done an activity myself. I feel more confident that I have everything I need and I can review were there might be problems before I find myself disappointing a group of people. This was one occasion where I am really glad we did our test run.

Emily, the boys and I used a recipe for chocolate fudge off of Pinterest and it never set hard enough to cut. It actually seemed more like a pretty good filling for something like truffles. We figured out what we did wrong. The recipe called for fewer than usual chocolate chips plus sweetened condensed milk and the kind we bought was LOW FAT sweetened condensed mild. We did not even notice until we started to figure out what went wrong. The kids and I will try it out again this weekend.

Wednesday was Fudge Day at Stroke Recovery Association and I was smarter this time, played it safe and used the recipe right on the Eagle Brand Condensed Milk label. We had nothing but fun and success with lots of added in candy, sprinkles.

1-2-3 Fudge

3 cups chocolate chips.
1 can Evaporated Condensed Milk
1 tsp vanilla.
 around a cup of fun things to add in.

  • Prepare a pan by greasing the sides and ideally put a lining of parchments paper to make it easier to lift out later.
  • Measure the chocolate chips into a large glass measuring bowl and still in the condensed milk.
  • Heat in a microwave,  stir and make sure it is smooth.
  • Remove from the microwave and add vanilla
  • Now is the time to stir in your add ins. They can be chopped up candies, glazed cherries, mini marshmallows dried fruits. nuts, cereals. You should avoid wet ingredients but other than that be creative and make it your own. 
  • Pour your warm fudge into the prepared pans. A spatula makes this easier to transfer and smooth your surface. you might want to add a few more of the fun things to be a decorative topping. 
  • Cool for a couple hours, then check for firmness, cut into pieces and enjoy.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Choir Concert Prize Draws

Bob and I have not been singing in the Scandinavian Choir this year.

The biggest problem is that choir is every Monday evening and I work every second Monday. Now that sounds like there was no time conflict but there sure was an energy conflict. The fact is that I really have to try and manage my energy. I do really well but one of the problems left over from my brain injury is still some ongoing fatigue. I really have to watch how I use my time and how much I do and that is not always easy. Now that I am having a lot of arthritis problems one of the things I am being told is to watch how I use my energy and to do things like use assistive here we go again! I am hoping to get better pain management soon and be able to keep on doing the things I love. Maybe we will be singing again in a month or next fall but I am not able to commit right now.

We went to the Scandinavian Choir's Christmas concert on Monday. It was a fun evening with our choir friends, enjoying some singing, dressing up a bit, food to eat and there were chance draws for prizes that the members donated.

We put tickets into every draw bag and were shocked when we won three of the draws! 

The first prize was a nice looking poinsettia plant.

Next I had my eye on an angel garden sculpture and sure enough we won that one too. I want to do more gardening both at home and at the lake so this little guy can be an inspiration. That draw also included  garden note cards and a small heart shaped picture frame.

The third prize pack include a red napkin holder, napkins, an Aloe Vera plant,  and a very pretty little necklace.
There was also a very nice set of Christmas towels for the bathroom but I am not so sure which gift pack it came with.

I love everything!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Egg Nog with Emily

We were having a relaxing evening watching Christmas movies and my daughter Emily decided to make Egg Nog. Now I am perfectly happy with the egg nog that comes out of a carton so I don't remember ever trying to make egg nog. Emily is pretty determined so she looked up some recipes and went for it. I must say the stuff in the carton is no comparison. The home made egg nog was very rich and the egg whites whipped into meringue and stirred in give such a wonderful and interesting texture

She was happiest with the Alton Brown's Egg Nog recipe and I would certainly encourage her to make it for us again.
We had recently been to an Epicure Party at a friends place and I purchased their egg nog spice mix. I honestly was thinking of using it in cheesecake or pancakes or cookies or something, and had not even considered making eggnog to drink. Emily substituted this spice mix for the spices in Alton's recipe.

I just had to add this second pic of the egg-nog when I realized that the dog photobombed it. .. he always loves creamy things but this beverage was not for sharing with a doggie!

Monday, December 4, 2017

Planting Amaryllis

I love seasonal plants! They just make me happy!

Last week I got flower bulbs to plant both at home and at work.

I wanted to grow Amaryllis at work because it is such a large dramatic and fast growing plant. The kits are fairly reasonably priced for what you get and include a plastic pot, saucer, soil and a bulb. I gathered a group of about 7 or 8 residents and together we talked about Christmas Plants in general and we examined the bulbs which are pretty darn impressive and big. We planted it in the soil and watered it and I am crossing my fingers it grows fast. The window I put them in is not very warm. My plan is that once they get going I will take them visiting to many residents so they can watch them grow up. My aim is to have gorgeous flowers by Christmas or New Years.

I also had lots of fun planting Amaryllis and Paper Whites with my 7 and 11 year old grandsons.  They loved planting them and when they are over they are eager to water them and see what has changed. I regularly spend time with the older boy helping him with his academic skills. The December plan includes tracking the growth of the 4 Amaryllis plants and the two pots of paper whites including measuring them all weekly. We have worked on how to make a table on the computer where he can record the information and then in the end I will get him to average the different plants growth and graph his results by heights vs time . That is actually pretty challenging but it is gradual and hidden in so much fun that he will "enjoy the learning". 

I will post more pictures as they grow.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Centerpieces Made at Art Group

We  had a guest come to the Stroke Recovery Association of Manitoba Art Group this week to show us how to make centerpieces.  Teresa, is the wife of a Stroke Survivor and she was happy to share her talents with us. Her family had a flower shop when she was a girl and she still really enjoys working with fresh greens. She came with everything needed fur us to make our own centerpieces. She spent many hours gathering supplies and preparing by wrapping picks onto pinecones and a few artificial berries to be used as picks in the arrangements we were creating. Trimming the greens and making bows were difficult for a few of our group members but we all supported each other and we all wound up with georgous arrangements.

You start with a small bowl and a piece of green Oasis floral foam and n you push a candle into the center. Next we trimmed some pieces of pine greenery into manageable pieces and pushed it into the Oasis all around the arrangement. Our top layer was pieces of cedar. The two kinds of greenery gave a  much  greater depth and variety of color and shape that was very attractive. Next we added the trims.. pinecones, artificial berries, mistletoe, holly and we made or were given ribbons on a wire that can be poked into the Oasis foam. A few people even added a cute artificial bird!

My daughter Emily came along to art this week to give a helping hand. Its always nice to have her with me. We made one centerpiece together, that we now have on our coffee table.  Teresa said we can expect the centerpieces to last all the way into January.

 I want to thank everyone who came out for this event. I especially want to thank Teresa but I also want to give a big thanks out to the volunteers and family members that assisted in making this workshop such a success

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